Baked Sea Bass with a mild curried ratatouille

29 Mar

imageMy inspiration for this recipe was from the menu of one of our favourite restaurants, 15 in Caleta De Fuste in Fuerteventura. There are fifteen main courses on offer, ordered in customer preference. All of the choices are superb but a particular favourite of mine is the sea bass. I tried to recreate the lovely flavours in my own recipe and, whilst there were obvious differences, I was very pleased with my results and will definitely be making this again.

Baked sea bass with a mild curried ratatouille      Serves 2

  • Low calorie spray oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large courgette, quartered lengthways, deseeded and sliced
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 ml water
  • 100g low fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp sweet mango chutney
  • 1 tsp hot curry paste
  • 2 sea bass, descaled, gutted and fins removed
  • juice half a lemon
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 6.
  2. Spray some oil into a nonstick frying pan. Add the onion and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for the last minute.
  3. add the chopped courgette and continue frying gently for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season lightly. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add about 50ml of water and mix well. Continue cooking until all vegetables are tender.
  4. In the meantime, wash and dry the sea bass. Place in an oven dish. Score each side with a knife and squeeze over the lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper and spray with low calorie olive oil. Bake in the oven until cooked through (about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Mix the creme fraiche, mango chutney and curry paste together, adjusting to suit personal taste. Stir into the ratatouille gradually, a spoonful at a time and mix in until you have a creamy consistency (about 3 tbsp). Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve the sea bass with the ratatouille on the side and some boiled new potatoes if you like.

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Chicken and courgettes with spaghetti

25 Mar

DSCI0560I was caught on the hop the other night. We were supposed to be going out and our plans fell through so I had to pull together a meal from what I had in.  The result was amazing.  In the past I have made off the cuff meals from scratch. I suppose it is a bit like the invention test in Masterchef.  We have had some great meals but I would not write down what I did so they were always a one-off, much to my husbands dismay.  This was one of the reasons my grandson, Danny, talked me into doing a blog.  Well, this is my latest attempt at an invention test.  Hope you like it.

Chicken and courgettes with Spaghetti                    Serves 4

  • Low calorie spray olive oil
  • 3 rashers of lean bacon, all fat removed, sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 courgette, halved lengthways and then sliced
  • About 150g/6 oz leftover roast chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (or 1 chicken breast simmered in chicken stock until cooked the cut up as before)
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g spaghetti
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan then fry the bacon over a high heat for a couple of minutes until changing colour.
  2. Turn down the heat to low – medium and add the onion and garlic. Mix well and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the courgettes, mix well and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and cook for 4 minutes then add the tomatoes. Season to taste then mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down, the chicken is cooked through and the courgettes are tender.
  5. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  6. Add a couple of tbsp of the spaghetti cooking water to the chicken mix to make a little sauce.
  7. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the chicken. Toss so the spaghetti is coated with the sauce then serve immediately.

 

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers – a great veggie recipe!

21 Mar

I remember the days when my husband, Terry, used to say he hated vegetarian food.  That was before our son married a vegetarian, Tracy.  Over the years I have made countless meals without meat and, with the exception of those using Quorn, Terry has enjoyed every one.  I think perhaps our favourite is Stuffed Tomatoes.  There are lots of variations of this dish.  Some add minced meat to the stuffing, others, like my friend Maritsa, add roasted pine nuts and raisins.  I make mine how my adopted YaYa (that is Grandmother in Greek) taught me, many years ago.  Sadly she is no longer with us but whenever I cook this I have memories of standing in her tiny kitchen, working together and not understanding a word said between us.

For those of you who have tried Greek cooking, it can be a bit of a hit or miss affair.  Recipe books written by Greeks rarely give precise measurements and it can be frustrating when you have to decide how much a ‘bit of’ something actually is.  This, however, is perfectly natural for the Greeks.  If you ever get the chance, talk to a Greek about food.  A light will switch on in their eyes and they will start talking with passion about a subject they love.  Rena Salaman writes that cooking for Greeks is a constant reminder of who they are and where they come from.  Recipes were rarely written down and so every household would have their own version of what is known to be a popular Greek dish.  The one thing they would have in common is that the food would always be made of what is in season, and, most importantly, there would always be an extra portion, just in case there is an unexpected visitor.  Such is the Greek hospitality! This recipe is Syn free if you are using Frylight olive oil and Food Optimising on the Slimming World plan.

Anyway, back to the plot and Yaya’s Stuffed Tomatoes and peppers (Tomates ke piperies yemistes)

Serves 4

  • 4 large tomatoes (ripe beef tomatoes are perfect)
  • 4 green peppers
  • 5oz rice,washed and drained
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • Small bunch of flat-leafed parsley, chopped
  • 4 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • Cold water
  • Spray olive oil  / Frylight 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (baking potatoes are best)
  • 8 oz fresh tomatoes, grated, mixed with 1/4 pint water
  • pinch sugar
  1. Wash the tomatoes, slice off the top at the stem end.   Using a teaspoon, carefully remove the tomato pulp and reserve.  Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle a tiny amount of sugar in each.
  2. Wash the peppers and slice off the top at the stem end.  Carefully remove all the seeds and white pith inside and discard.  Place in the dish with the tomatoes.
  3. Chop the tomato pulp.  Lightly fry the onion until soft, in a little spray olive oil.  Add the tomato pulp, the rice and the chopped herbs.  Cover with cold water, about 1 inch above the level of the rice mix.  Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat until rice is tender to the bite and all the water has been absorbed.  Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if required.
  4. Fill the tomatoes and peppers 3/4 full, top with a tablespoon of water and replace the lids.  Wedge potato slices between tomatoes.  Spray with olive oil and pour over the grated tomato mix.  Season with salt and pepper and bake in a preheated oven, 180c/170C fan/gas 4, for 1 hour.  Baste occasionally to keep the vegetables moist.

Kalo Oreksi (Good appetite!) 

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Baked cod with chilli and ginger – delicious!

17 Mar

DSCI0082I love fish but wanted something different that would fit in with my Slimming World eating plan.  This was exactly that! I can honestly say that every mouthful was delicious. I served it with steamed broccoli and stir fried vegetables for added texture, although a side of boiled rice or noodles with the broccoli would be just as nice I’m sure.

The recipe calls for Piquant Peppers (Peppadew) from a jar. These are round in shape, similar to Scotch Bonnets, but there the similarity ends.  They are relatively mild although you will detect a slight heat which is enhanced by the sweetness of the chopped stem ginger.

Peppadew is the brand name of sweet piquanté peppers,  grown in the Limpopo province of South Africa. This type of piquante pepper was first discovered in early 1993 and introduced to market later that same decade.The flavour of the Peppadew fruit is sweet, with mild heat of around 1,177 on the Scoville scale.   To put this into context Jalapeños have 2,500–10,000 Scoville  heat units.

Here is the recipe. I found it in a Woman and Home publication but could not find a link to it on their website

Baked cod with chilli and ginger               Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 piece stem ginger, chopped plus 1 tbsp ginger syrup from the jar
  • 4 Peppadew peppers from a jar, drained and sliced
  • 2 pieces of of cod fillet
  • 1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (Kikkoman)
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Place the fish in an ovenproof dish. Scatter the garlic, chilli and stem ginger over the top.
  3. Mix together the soy sauce and ginger syrup and pour over the fish.
  4. Bake in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

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Mackerel with a Thai style marinade.

13 Mar

I think Mackerel is probably one of my favourite fish.  It is so tasty that I didn’t think a marinade would do anything for it but how wrong could I be!  This marinade really enhances the flavour but is very subtle so you can still taste the earthiness of the fish.  I honestly believe it is the best mackerel I have ever tasted.  Next Summer I am going to try it on the BBQ.  In the meantime it is fantastic grilled.  You could serve this with potatoes and maybe a salad or green vegetables. 

One of Terry’s, my husband’s, favourite memories are when he left college and, before starting teaching, he and his friend Gus hitchhiked around Wales.  One of the ports of call was Caldy Island where they caught Mackerel and cooked them on a wood fire on the beach.  I bet they were fantastic!  His friend Gus is a bit of an eccentric.  He is always telling tall stories, I think he actually researches them!  We often say he should write a book.  Some stories that are true, however, are so funny.  He went to visit Terry in College for the weekend and ended up staying for a whole term.  He slept on someones dormitory floor, joined the rugby team and attended lectures.  He even answered questions!  No-one ever sussed it out that he was not actually a student.  

Thai cuisine balances four fundamental taste senses, sour, sweet, salty and bitter (optional).  It is also spicy due to the chillies it invariably includes.  Common ingredients are lime, chillies, garlic and ginger.  Fish sauce is often included, usually offset by sugar.  I found this recipe in the Woman and Home Dinner Tonight magazine and modified it a little.  I’ve searched their website but could not find it so I will write it out for you below, along with the usual slideshow.  It is worth looking up their website and getting their magazine, they have some great recipes.  Anyway here is the one for today!

Mackerel with a Thai style marinade.        Serves 2

  • 2 large mackerel, gutted and cleaned, head removed
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  1. Mix the chilli, ginger, honey, lime juice and zest and coriander together in a small bowl.
  2. Make large incisions into both sides of the mackerel.  Rub the marinade all over the fish, making sure you get it some into the incisions.  Put in a dish and cover with cling film and leave to marinade for 2 hours.
  3. Line a grill pan with foil and brush with olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking.  If you are barbecuing oil a foil barbecue tray.  Place the fish into the tray and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes on each side.  Turn up the heat and cook for a few more minutes on each side until the skin is brown and crispy and the fish is cooked through.  Serve immediately. 

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Thai style beef and mango salad, one of our favourite meals!

9 Mar

 We first had this salad about eleven years ago, shortly after we returned from living in America.  It has been a firm favourite ever since and we eat it at least once a month and more often if I think about making it.  Although this is classed as a salad it could not be further away from what I grew up to understand salads to be, i.e. lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber!  The tender chunks of beef, straight from the pan, absorb the hot and spicy salad dressing.  The sweetness of the mango is in perfect contrast with the beef and the heat from the red onion and the watercress.  Your senses will rarely be subjected to such an attack on all levels, smell, taste and sight!  Absolutely delicious and very low in fat, carbohydrate and calories so excellent for anyone who is hoping to lose weight.  What more could you ask for?

Thai food is known for its balance of the four fundamental taste senses, sour, sweet, salty and bitter.  It is often spicy as well.  This dish is an excellent example of how this balance is achieved.  Don’t be put off by the ingredients, especially the mango in a savoury dish.  If you like spicy food I think you will love this.

Thai style beef and mango salad    Serves 2 (generously)

  • 2 sirloin steaks, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
  • 1 bag watercress
  • 3 tsp fish sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • juice 1 lime
  • small knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • Frylight or 1 tsp vegetable oil
  1. Put the cubes of steak in a dish, add 1 tsp fish sauce and season well with freshly ground pepper.  Mix well and set aside.
  2. Divide the watercress between two plates.  Sprinkle the mango cubes and sliced onion over each plate.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and chilli.  Check for taste.  If it is too sweet add more lime, too sour, add a little more sugar.
  4. Just before serving, heat the oil in a wok.  When hot stir fry the steak , turning frequently, until it is browned all over.
  5. Divide the steak between the two plates of salad and dress, to your liking, with the dressing.  Serve immediately. 

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Healthy Spaghetti Bolognese – delicious

5 Mar

imageSpaghetti Bolognese is probably my husbands favourite meals. My version is not typical of a traditional Bolognese sauce as when I first started making it, many years ago when the children were young, I had to bulk it out with vegetables to reduce the overall cost and also to provide vegetables for my resistant children.  We still love it and have it on average once a week. Now there are just my husband and myself at home I still make enough for four people and simply freeze half in a rigid container to use when time is short or when I don’t feel like cooking. Defrost completely though before you reheat.

Recently I have been attending Slimming World to lose some weight that has crept on over the years.  I have adapted the recipe so, by my calculations, if you use the Frylight oil,  it is now Syn free. In fact, so is the pasta and, if the Parmesan is used as a Healthy Extra, that is free too.  A wonderful plateful of free comfort food, what can be better than that!

Here is the recipe.

Spaghetti Bolognese                     Serves 4 people

  • Frylight Olive spray or 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 500g lean steak mince
  • 1 tsp dried Oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 beef stock cube (I use Knorr as Oxo is a bit overpowering in this dish)
  • 100/200 ml of water (just enough to loosen the mix and provide some sauce
  • Dried spaghetti (portion dependant on appetite)
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated (Optional)
  1. Spray a large saucepan with the oil or, if you are not using the spray, add the oil.  Heat until hot over medium heat and add the onion. Fry gently for about 5 minutes until starting to go tender.  Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the pepper and mushrooms and continue frying over a low heat for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.
  3. Turn up the heat to medium/high and crumble the mince over the vegetables. Mix well and cook until the mince has browned.
  4. Sprinkle over the oregano and season.  Mix well then add the tomatoes and water. Crumble over stock cube, mix well then bring to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add a little more water if necessary.
  6. In the meantime cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  7. Drain the spaghetti and serve with the meat sauce on top, sprinkled with parmesan if you like.

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